Brown County Auditor Deals with Frayed Belt; Local Paper Frets

As avid election watchers know, Brown County was the slowpoke this year, with a frayed belt on our vote-counting machine delaying the tabulation and announcement of final results until a quarter past two in the morning after the polls closed.

As one of the candidates in Brown County, I am at least as entitled as anyone else to be crabby about that delay. But my local paper sounds a lot hotter than I, trying to inflate this mechanical breakdown into a bigger failure of planning:

Most of us could shrug and say, “It broke, what are you going to do?”

“Nothing” is not the right answer [editorial board, “Speed and Accuracy Critical in Vote Counting,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.11.13].

The Brown County Auditor’s Office does not appear to have done “nothing” Tuesday night. They didn’t respond with some hair-on-fire ad hoc counting regime. Election officials kept tension on the bad belt and fed ballots carefully through the machine until tech support arrived. They kept the ballots secure and stuck with their prescribed procedures.

The AAN editorial board huffs and puffs that “voters should expect answers” about “Plan B”, but the fact is, we got the answer that mattered: the final vote count. The paper has reported no concerns about errors in the count—they haven’t even contacted the candidates for comment since before Brown County results started coming in to ask if they are concerned with the count. (The last contact I had with the press was at 22:32 CST Tuesday night, when the Brown County results still showed all zeroes.) Aside from this hyperventilation about this mechanical failure, AAN’s local post-election coverage has been limited to reciting the numbers and posting one policy-free piece focused on emotional reactions to the Presidential election.

A frayed belt at the courthouse is the least of the Republic’s problems, and the Brown County Auditor’s Office dealt with it effectively.

4 Responses to Brown County Auditor Deals with Frayed Belt; Local Paper Frets

  1. David Newquist

    One must question why our local newspaper, which often seems to be edited by interns from middle school, strains to carp so absurdly about a minor machine malfunction. It stresses the need for voters to be assured that the votes are receiving an accurate and reliable count, and then suggests contingency plans which election officials resist because they are exactly the kind of measures that can produce counting errors. The most obvious plan was in place, which was to get the damned machine fixed.

    However, they focus on the auditors office, which members of the count commission would like to replace with a system of county officials which would be suppliant employees of the commission, not elected by the people. The auditor also pointed out that all the testing and maintenance for the machine had been performed. The person responsible for the machine and any contingencies in case of failure is the director of information technology, who is a crony appointee of the county commission.

  2. mike from iowa

    Just blame HRC.

  3. Hey, Mr. Newquist. They should have had you down there with your sleeves rolled up and a tool in your hand, for I was wondering all night about how the elder Mr. Novstrup and Mr. H were doing.

    I guess I blame you for not doing anything productive.

  4. David, you properly remind us of Duane Sutton’s desire to throw out elected officials and bring those county offices under their partisan control with appointees. This AAN editorial unnecessarily stokes criticism of an elected county official who did her job well Tuesday night in the face of adversity and pressure.